Perceptual biases during cued task switching relate to decision process differences between children and adults
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Description: Previous work suggests that children engage preparatory processing differently than adults in cued task switching. One potential consequence is that they are differentially biased by visual properties of the stimuli, e.g., target-choice similarity. We tested this possibility in 215 children and young adults ranging from 6 to 27 years of age. Participants played a cue-target game with varying levels of working memory (WM) and attentional demand where they matched multidimensional stimuli according to a cued dimension. Younger age, low WM demand, and matching fine grained dimensions (i.e. pattern) increased the bias of target-choice similarity on task performance. Older age, high WM, and matching global dimensions (i.e. shape) mitigated the bias. Developmental transitions to adult performance differed by task demands but generally occurred during early adolescence. A drift diffusion analysis revealed age and task differences in decision making strategies consistent with how similarity impacted task performance, indicating that, especially with low WM demand, children made impulsive, similarity-driven decisions. Our findings support the idea that children engage in preparation strategies that exacerbate perceptual biases on task performance; improvements are observed with age or through changes in task structure and stimuli. These results have implications for interpreting cognitive control performance in children